Friday, 8 March 2013

Youth clubs facing the axe...and other news

As the council scratches around to save pennies yet another Task and Finish Group is to be set up. This time the target has switched from the frail and elderly and their day clubs, and it is now pointing the axe at the 25 youth clubs run at a cost of £60,000 per year. To put things into some perspective, the council propaganda rag, the Carmarthenshire News, costs £138,000 per year and the brand new civic Merc continues to purr expensively around Carmarthenshire.

'Consultations' will be held over the coming months to 'provide options for change'. The provision of youth services is a statutory duty although how the provision is achieved seems to be up to the local authorities. I predict that the clubs, which provide a valuable service, will go the way of the luncheon clubs for the elderly and the public toilets and be farmed out to voluntary groups or town and community councils, who will be left to struggle and pick up the pieces. Some organisations will be better equipped than others of course and a particular fundamentalist evangelical church springs to mind which has already benefited from council funding. Well, at least we'll know our youngsters will be saved from eternal damnation.

On the subject of schools, the council published a press release last week outlining the 'capital programme'. Within it was a mention of the proposed new primary school in Llangadog, 'Cwm Tywi'. This new school actually involves the closure of two others, Llanwrda and Llansadwrn, (not that this was mentioned in the article) both of which plan to campaign against closure. As a Llanwrda Community Councillor, I shall be joining them.

The formal 'consultation' has not even started yet but most of the background work, design, infrastructure reports etc have already been done, at considerable expense. What do you think the chances are of saving the two village schools? It's almost pointless having a statutory consultation. And those that try and save their schools and oppose the council bulldozers? They will rapidly appear in the news section of the council website as a 'small group of troublemakers intent on harming the council...jeopardizing the education of your children'. I could write it for them.

The planning decision for the new secondary superschool in Ffairfach, Llandeilo is awaited. Numerous objections were made and it remains to be seen whether it will be called-in by the Welsh government. This involved the closure of Pantycelyn school in Llandovery despite a spirited battle.

The battles against Carmarthenshire Council are escalating in Llandovery with the growth of a very determined residents'association, LATRA. A formal objection has been launched against the Local Development Plan with regards to the town, and particularly the allocation of 148 homes in one area, an vialbe alternative has been proposed by LATRA which will see growth and development spread evenly throughout the town, reviving and retaining its unique character. The group was formed as a "direct result of the anger and frustration felt by the people of Llandovery at the lack of consultation and information with regard to major local issues. Over three hundred members of the community signed up after objections, petitions and the voices of several thousand people were consistently ignored"

Back to the new superschool. The site is on a flood plain and the council have gone to some lengths to commission, er, suitable reports. Unfortunately the initial glossy report failed to include two bridges and the possibility of blockages. An 'Addendum' has now been commissioned. It is also glossy.

There is also a 'planning delay' and an extra cost of £150,000 to deal with a Roman Road that runs through the site. Quite what the £150k is for I don't know but I expect further glossy reports.
This was originally a pilot development, fully funded by the Welsh government but that funding has now dwindled to 50% and the Council's MEP programme as a whole has a black hole of £26m. The question is whether the school will ever be complete...

Recently the council were asked whether this 'state-of-the-art' school would have a 'state-of-the-art' swimming pool for the kids, the answer was no, certainly not, no money. Maybe they'll just have to wait for heavy rain....

Yesterday's BBC report that Wales is seeing a 'surge' in the rat population reveals that many Councils now charge for pest control services which will of course reduce the uptake.

Carmarthenshire Council went one better and abolished the service altogether in 2011 saving £92,000 per year. It now offers advice only and, to make matters worse, encourages everyone to leave waste food outside in the green recycling containers. Reports of increased presence of rats are habitually denied as 'unfounded' by the council.

I suppose the expert advice is to stand on a chair and scream.

Lastly, the Chief Executive of Caerphilly Council, Anthony O'Sullivan, has made it into the Mirror, and the circumstances surrounding the scandal are now being investigated by a neighbouring police force.

Council fatcat broke the law by giving himself a £26,000 pay rise

"The council acted illegally because the meeting was not advertised, the agenda was not available and the leader and other senior officers were present"

Updated; Mr O'Sullivan has now been suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation;


Anonymous said...

Is the situation any different in County Hall?

Anonymous said...

horrible headline, i despair for parents looking for youth groups to shunt their kids off to, in this new age